If you hear phantom trumpets, faint violin strings strumming, and bellow Gregorian tongues incantating ancient Latin being carried across the still New Orleans’ roads, it is the surreptitious Moretto’s eerie melody, foreboding his impotent and malicious presence onto those who he deemed tainted by their impious sins. Each morning, his victims’ removed faces would be smeared with their blood, cedar oil, and charcoal ashes. They would be left against the bottom of a black lamppost. Their hollow eyes painted their dreaded anguish on their last hour on the plain of the living. Their faces turned ghostly pale. Icy sweat streamed down from their foreheads onto the edges of their lips, carrying their thoughts about where he will be or who he will claim next. Their hearts palpitating their anxiousness and adrenaline of his horrific work, expression forth his amoral, irrational mind. The befuddled locals scratched their tangled thoughts about where they have seen this before and then, it dawned on them. One irreligious name of an amoral man, a horrendous legend dared not uttered: Aeron Chernobog.
Locals, even the slaves around New Orleans knew who Aeron Chernbog was. His elite status, his high education, and his prominent good features did not give him his reputation. First, his conception was not a natural one. The rumor was his conception was a result of his wild mother, a dark witch, who was madly in love with a psychopathic elitist who calculated and committed the murder of his younger sister, her husband, and her two children. In his contorted mind, he felt injustice for his younger sister and her family, who he deemed to be unworthy and vile rodents, to inherit his father’s fortune and French Quarter. He persuaded her into committing the horrendous deed underneath the full moon, when her powers would be at their peak. Before they went to the house, the elitist dawned on a scarlet cape and wore a white Moretto mask, concealing his madness. They quietly walked and entered through the front door. They climbed up the stairs and when on the second floor, they went into each room, slaughtering their victims in their beds, without making a stir. The dark witch went into the master bedroom where her lover, heavily breathing in through his nostrils. Exotic jasmine sulfur aroma emanated from his sister’s lifeless corpse as her arm draped over the side of her bed crimson. His irreligious emerald eyes illuminated his quench blood-lust for inflicting blood splatted on his long sleeve white cotton shirt. There was a trickle of blood on the side of his Moretto mask. His emerald eyes dialed their focus on her across the room. Her heart palpitated her enchantment and wild desires for him as he approached closer and closer. She sadistically grinned at him. She coiled her arms around his massive shoulder. His domineering arms coiled around her hourglass waist and he pulled her towards him. His hand reached towards his Moretto mask and pulled it away from his face. Without a word, they osculated, savoring the jasmine sulfur aroma of his sister’s blood under the moon’s illuminating canary light.
Aeron’s birth was not like any other baby and something about his birth frightened the locals, even the slaves. On a blustering, raining October night, his frail mother gave birth to him on the white floors of the French Quarters. The anxious midwife with warm cotton cloth in her hand, rushed over towards the end of the bed, splattered with her blood. When she picked up the baby and brought him towards her, he suddenly opened them: irreligious emerald eyes. The midwife’s face turned pale, left speechless from him. His little hand squirmed through the cloth and without warning, he scratched hard onto her hand. Her flinched hand quickly pulled back. She looked down on her hand. She gasped in horror witnessing three deep gashes, seeping three thick streams of merlot blood dripping onto his forehead. The aroma of lavender sulfur made the impious baby grin. There was something disturbing about him.
“Is my son alright? Is my son alright,” his mother said in a weak voice, snapping the midwife from shock.
“Yes, madam. Your son Aeron is a healthy baby boy. He is rather an affectionate one,” the midwife lied to the mother as she handed him.
The mother lightly cradled the baby in her arms. She took her fingers and pulled the cloth away from his angelic face. She saw a splatter of blood on his forehead, which did not alarm her. She focused her attention on both his impressive emerald eyes and his grin. He chuckled. She said in a happy voice, “He’s got his father’s malicious eyes and a twinkle of his insanity.”
As Aeron grew, the locals took notice of his amoral behavior with people. When he was just three years old, he and his mother walked along the street sides when a young woman was walking her five-month-old Bichon Frise. While his mother and the woman were chatting, the dog stared at Aeron for a brief second. Its white fur rose up. Its front paws pared and lowered. Its head lowered to the ground. Its upper lip revealed its sharped teeth to the boy. It gave an aggressive err, sensing the boy’s twisted nature. An annoyed Aeron lowered his eyes towards the dog, narrowing his suppressed savagery. The dog continued to growl at Aeron. Something inside of Aeron snapped. His arms lounged at the dog’s vulnerable throat. His vise grip made the dog yep in fright and pain. The women ceased their conversation, hearing the dog’s plead for help. The owner’s face turned pale, seeing her beloved animal being squeezed in the neck like a rodent. Aeron lifted the dog off the ground, leaned it forward towards him, and bit hard onto its vulnerable throat. The dog’s eyes rolled in the back of its head. Blood seeped downward onto Aeron’s lips and onto his white long sleeve shirt. He pulled remnants of muscle and tissue from the lifeless animal’s neck. He turned to the women. His eyes radiated his growing insane savagery. The women remained speechless at the horrific occurrence. His proud mother began to grow disturbed and concerned of her son’s malevolent nature.
Aeron’s violent and sadistic behavior towards other children and animals continued without any limited boundaries. Whenever he was questioned about his behavior by an adult or even his mother, a sadistic grin would appear on his face, accompanied by a ghoulish snicker. His eyes illuminated his caged insanity being suffocated by normalcy’s rustic chains. He would say in an ominous, composed voice, “They were the sick ones, not me. I needed to heal and cure them of their diseases, their sins. If I did not, then everyone including me would be tainted in their wickedness. I was just in doing what I did. Would you have done it so?”
His response was disconcerting and twisted. A child his age could not have comprehend or understand the words he would say to an adult who knew the words and their meaning. His mother’s stomach turned with dread and disconcerting for the monster in front of her. It was not his impious, twisted actions onto the sick as he called them, but every night when the full moon hovered over their French Quarter home, its canary light penetrated through his bedroom window and hit against his father’s Moretto mask, hanging on the wall. Aeron walked over to the mask, yearning to wear it so. Its hollow eyes staring into Aeron’s eyes, revealing more and more of his madness and irreligious nature.
He grew of his childish antics and innocent appearance. His insane irreligious mind grew more lethal and dangerous like a blooming Nightshade. When they saw Aeron walking on the streets, locals would whisper to each other, saying, “He is the wicked spawn of the psychopathic elitist. He is just like him.” Aeron’s acute hearing overheard the fearful locals’ words. He would have turned his head and frighten them even more with his look. He chuckled in amusement of the locals dreading his presence in the broad of daylight. The voodoo priests selling ghost peppers and charms to potential buyers would turn phantom pale, seeing the impious Aeron walking down the streets to the New Orleans’s music with a disturbed grin.
If he walked by a dirt-smeared peddler crossed leg on the streets, an impious grin appeared on his face, accompanied by a shallow chuckle. He would turn his head towards the peddler, begging for a couple of coins from him. Aeron’s bright emerald eyes would illuminate in dawn’s light, revealing his wonderous insanity, suppressed in his mind’s cage. The clock’s hands struck twelve; the peddler mysteriously vanished, leaving only a rustic coffee can with two coins inside. Petrified locals knew if anyone happened to stare into Aeron’s eyes, their fears would erode into their subconscious and their sanity would elope.
One night, on a rainy and thunderous night, Aeron’s insanity and blood-lust would reach its lethal peak, making him a precarious figure New Orleans dreads to this very day.
For months, Aeron’s heart was captivated by the naïve Eliza and her curly brunette hair swaying with the incense air. What made Eliza captivating was her beatific face and her sublime voice, which was pleasant for his ears. Aeron believed she was an angel sent down from God’s Heaven to bring goodness onto the sinners that needed it. He also believed she was sent down from Heaven to become his and his alone. Aeron had never felt compassion and love for anything or anyone before. He would see her walking on the streets, carrying a tan basket in her hands. The basket was half filled with assorted flowers such as amethyst petunias and canary fuchsia hibiscuses apart from each other. Their delicate petals leaned over to the basket’s edges. Each time he approached closer and closer towards her, the petals would curl up and the flowers would submissively lower their heads in his presence. A befuddled Eliza believed the flowers were not getting enough of sunlight. She did not comprehend Aeron’s true nature, the state of his sanity, and his yearning for her. Eliza believed Aeron was a gentleman, a true gentleman. He bowed to her loveliness, making her giggle like a little girl. He grinned at her. Her cheeks turned rosy red. She gave him a faint smile. Composed, he approached her, reaching, and grabbing onto her doll like hand.
“My Eliza, you are such an exoplanar beauty on these tainted New Orleans’ streets, filled with sinful and sick people. Like a single lilac petunia blooming alongside a Grecian fountain in spring time, your angelic loveliness radiates your exquisite beauty among these wretched weeds. You my Eliza, like a flame on a candlestick, light more and more of my tangled yearning for you,” Aeron said in a charismatic voice with a grin on his face.
Each grip onto her hand, he anticipated for her response. He held his breath. His heart ceased on its third beat.
“That is very sweet of you, Aeron to say such beautiful things about me and how you felt. I honestly never knew you had such admiration to be with me, despite what people have told me about you. However…”
“However, what my little petunia?”
She shifted her eyes back and forth, attempting to conceal a disgusting truth from the gentleman in front of her. Her heart begged her not to say a word, but her head, like a priest, told her to confess. She said, “My heart has gone to someone else. We’ve been intimate for a long time and our parents, and even the servants or the people around here do not know about. He had told me tonight he shall propose to me in front of our parents, so they would not be aware of our past indiscretions with each other.”
Aeron’s charismatic smile dissipated, replaced with a dreaded, deformed mouth, expressing his shattered heart. His boiling ire charred the chains suppressing his insanity from the world. His fingers constricted around her hand. His grip grew tighter and tighter until she moaned in pain.
“You loathsome, seductive, wicked succubus,” Aeron said in an ire voice. “Through your angelic disguise, you concealed your ravenous sickness before God, before me. People perceive you as such a delicate, elegant petunia, but deep down, you are really an ugly begonia that needs to be plucked from the garden.”
His hand viciously threw hers onto her side, making the basket tip over and some of the flower petals plummeted onto the charcoal pavement. A distorted Eliza kneeled down, picked up each petal, and placed them in her basket. Aeron’s menacing stare made Eliza’s face pale and her stomach churned with fear. He ignored her pleads into helping her with the flowers. Aeron trampled on a couple of hibiscuses’ petals. He did not bother looking back at Eliza. As he walked away, his right eye twitched his eroding madness of curing her sickness.
Wicked succubus, wicked succubus. She hides her tainted impious desires and apathic heart from God, from me. I shall cure her of her ailment as the Moretto, he thought with a disturbed grin emanating from his face.
The foreboding night carried a looming dread over the silent New Orleans’ street. Trumpets and brass rested their boisterous golden mouth against the white walls within the French Quarters. The dead slumber peacefully within their sealed mausoleums under the moonlight. Two black cats trod gracefully on hunched arches of black iron gates.
Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.
They turned their heads, seeing a menacing figure draped in a royal purple velvet cape walking down from an alleyway alongside the French Quarter. On top of his head, he wore a black bicorne with a ruby skull at its center, staring at those who gaze at its haunting magnificence. The dim moonlight beckoned down on the figure and his face. He lifted his head towards the moon’s glow. Upon it, he dawned the hollow white face of the Moretto. His emerald eyes illuminated his malevolent elegance revealing his evocative yearning to cure those who wronged him. His wicked eyes stared straight at the cats on the gate, like an arrow shot at rodents. The black cats sensing his twistedness arched their backs and hissed. He remained composed at their pathetic intimidation towards him. Both cats growled at him, disgusted and dreaded of his presence. They tiptoed onto the gates, away from the figure’s sight. He proceeded to walk to a French Quarter where his victims laid. He knew where they were and who they were. The figure knew his victims, even their hideous secrets.
Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.
Rows of black lamppost flickered their wild lights through the transparent lantern glass, welcoming him. He arrived at the French Quarter. He stood at the main entrance. His hands placed at his side. A sharpen knife concealed on the side of his cape, anticipated for the succulent taste of his victims blood and flesh on its side. His dark thoughts raced and tangled each other. As he stood just an inch from the door, he thought about his conversation with her in the broad daylight. He placed his hand on his chest. His cold heart slowly pumped his disturbing lust and savagery yearning into curing himself of her sickness. Her words slithered through his cape, taunting him. He huffed. His hand slowly turned the door’s knob. Click. He pulled the front door towards him. The front door creaked open, revealing a plain main entrance with a flight of stairs leading to the second floor. The Moretto’s birdlike nose peeped through the door’s creak. His hand released its grip of the door’s knob. He remained composed, entering the quarter while Eliza and her lover were sound asleep in separate rooms. He grabbed tighter and tighter onto the knife’s black handle. As he gazed and approached the stairs, he moaned and grinned at the flashing images of lifeless bodies on the floor submerged in their blood, jasmine perfume, and doused aged whiskey.
He climbed up the stairs. When he reached to the top, he looked around the floor for any opened doors. He thought if he boisterously charged through the doors and let out a maniacal laughter at his victims, his stature would be lowered to that of a raving lunatic. He had to have the presence of sly prowess and malevolence over his victims, unleashing his madness. On his left, he saw a door jarred, leading to a bedroom. He approached the door and reached for its edge. His fingers pressed on the wood. He leaned forward, peering through its crack. Inside the room was a young man in his late twenties slumbering in his bed. He had found his first victim: the lover. He pulled the door wide. As the door opened, it made a little creak, not waking the man up. He quietly entered the bedroom. He approached the bed with the knife half-raised towards the man’s chest. A twinkle of madness and delight emanated from his eyes, fantasying the man’s ghastly face staring at him. He hovered over the young man. His impious eyes stared through the young man’s being, seeing he was just as sick as she was.
Such a deplorable, wretched man to let his soul be tainted by the succubus’ enchantment.
He squatted down on his bedside. He leaned forward towards the young man’s ear.
“You shall be cured of your disease,” the Moretto whispered in his ear.
Eliza woke to the sound of footsteps approaching her bedside. She giggled, assuming it was her lover wanting to slumber next to her. Eliza’s hands caressed her lineage pillows, feeling their soft comforting presences. She grabbed and drew one of the pillows closer to her face, imagining it to be her lover’s face. She sighed in delight.
“My love, is that you coming into my room? I know we are not allowed to share a bed until we are man and wife, but come and lay beside me.”
She released the pillow from her grip. She turned her body to the left side of the bed.
When she turned, her face turned pale. Her smile dissipated. She gasped with fright, looking at the Moretto looming his imposing presence over her. Her petrified eyes looked at his clothes, splatted with her lover’s blood. He remained silent. Eliza looked over the figure’s side, seeing the next room’s door opened. The open door revealed a disconcerting shadow of a lifeless cadaver slouched over on the side of the bed. Its flaccid hand equivocated slightly while the candlelight grew dimmer and dimmer. Eliza’s eyes widened with a fearsome epiphany.
The Moretto raised his right arm with the knife in his hand. Before she could speak, he aimed the knife over her right thigh. The knife quickly plummeted and embedded itself into her thigh. Steel blade penetrated through her muscles. Its intense blade severed the ligaments and tendons from one another, reaching to the femur bone. He viciously removed the knife from her leg. Scarlet blood, like a fountain, squirted out of her leg and bled onto her white nightgown. She moaned in agony from her wound. Eliza placed her hand onto the wound, preventing more blood from spreading. He lifted the knife again, but this time, he aimed it at her stomach. The steel blade penetrated through her flesh and muscles. He viciously removed the knife from her stomach, but unlike before, pieces of her stomach and intestines poured out of the wound and landed on the bed. She anxiously wheezed of the sight. Her head became light with each pint of blood seeping out of her wounds. Her attacker pulled the knife and raised it over his head. Eliza stared at the doorway and thought, I have to escape. I have to get away from him or I am going to be butchered.
She landed hard on her elbow against the floor. She grinned and hissed her pain through her teeth. She raised her knees towards her punctured stomach. Eliza crawled on the floor with her elbows, reaching for the doorway. Her eyes looking up at her assailant approaching closer and closer. Through the mask’s openings, Eliza noticed something about his eyes. Yes, his eyes had a familiar color she had seen before. His eyes were irreligious emerald. She realized the horrible truth of the Moretto’s identity.
“Aeron,” Eliza screamed.
He gave a disturbing, impious grin towards her. It was said by locals that his blood smeared grin appeared as if he ripped and sewn on Lucifer’s mouth. His eyes radiated their maddening glow through the mask, frightening a weakened, half-conscious Eliza laying on the floor. He drew closer and closer towards her. He raised the knife towards his chest. He taunted her with its silver blade bathed in her and her lover’s blood. He leaned forward towards her with the knife still in his hand. She held her fear tight.
“Why are you doing this, Aeron? You could never do something like this. You are a gentleman.”
“Me? A gentleman? You must not really know me too well, my dear. You do not hear what the locals think of me and the things I have done since I was a boy? How utterly foolish of you to presume someone who is depraved and twisted like me to be normal,” Aeron said in a cracked voice.
“You are sick to do such a deed. You are not well. You need help,” Eliza cried towards her assailant.
“You think I am the sick one,” Aeron said in an angry voice, slapping the palm of his hand against the door’s frame.
Aeron chuckled and he said, “My dear, it is time for you to be cured of your disease, your sin. I shall cure myself of your impious, seductive nature, you loathsome succubus.”
He lunged at a weakened Eliza with his knife. She shielded her chest, fearing he would stab her heart in a second. The next thing she felt was the razor edge of the blade slicing her cheek off of her face. Eliza’s scream echoed across the Quarter’s hallways. Aeron’s insane laughter went through the windows and upward to the full moon.
Next morning, Eliza’s body laid limp against the lamppost. Her nightgown soaked in her blood and parts of her organs seeped out of her. Her angelic face was removed, revealing a grotesque, muscular face, being pecked on by crows. The locals’ faces grew pale from the sight. At first, they thought it was a robbery gone wrong in the middle of the night. Then, they realized something: this was the madness of Aeron Chernobog.
The locals did not know what became of Aeron after Eliza’s murder. The rumor was after he killed his beloved, he was consumed by his own madness. He never removed the Moretto mask. He went on top of a hill where a decaying cypress tree grew. Once he made it to its top, he took and tied the noose around a firm branch. He placed a tree trunk underneath his feet. He placed his neck within the noose and kicked the tree trunk. His body contorted wildly. His eyes rolled to the back of his neck. His mouth foaming with saliva and blood, dripping on the sides. Under his dying breath, he said, “I shall come back to cure those wretched souls of their disease, their sins as the Moretto.”
Every night underneath the full moon’s enchantment, the people of New Orleans dreaded the madden Aeron Chernobog. They said if you hear phantom trumpets, faint violin strings strumming, and bellow Gregorian tongues incantating ancient Latin being carried across the still New Orleans’ roads, it is Aeron Chernobog’s eerie melody, foreboding his impotent and malicious presence onto those who he deemed tainted by their sickness and sought out to cure them of their disease.
Christina Ciufo is a passionate writer in poetry, short stories, flash fictions, fables, and completing her first novel. At a very young age, she always had a passion for writing stories and poems, specifically in fairytales, folklore, supernatural, and horror. After graduating Sacred Heart University with a BA in English, she continued to expand her writing abilities at Manhattanville College’s MFA Creative Writing Program and by May 2017, graduated with an MFA degree in Creative Writing. She completed Sacred Heart University's Education Program in December 2018 with a MAT in Teaching in both elementary and secondary. She is currently a Sunday School Teacher. She has appeared in Gravitas, Spillwords, Ovunque Siamo, Nymphs, Vamp Cat Magazine, Z Publishing Ohio, Nightingale & Sparrow, Truly Review, Mookychick, Door is a Jar Magazine, Bonnie's Crew, The Poetry Question, Twist in Time Magazine, Moonchild Magazine, The Wolf Feeds Poetry, Crêpe & Penn, Marias at Sampaguitas, Cauldron Anthology, dream walking, Selcouth Station Magazine, Beneath The Fever, The Wild Literary Magazine, Speculate This Magazine Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine and The Clay Literary Magazine.